GAMBIER — The message of Easter comes to life Friday at Community Christian Fellowship when it presents the Easter pageant “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”
This stirring drama depicts scenes from the life of Christ as told in the New Testament gospels from his birth through his ministry years and up to his crucifixion, death and resurrection. More than 90 cast members, young and old, comprise the cast of the program. Playing the role of Jesus is Pat Forshey.
“This presentation has been 47 years in the making,” explained Pastor Bob Pelfrey, who has directed the program for many years. He initially was involved in the program in Georgetown, Ky., in 1965 and eventually brought it to Community Christian Fellowship, where it has been presented nearly 30 times over the past 40 years.
This year, the program is being presented in memory of former church member Jean Davis. “She was my assistant director and kind of like my right-hand person,” said Pelfrey. “She did everything that needed to be done.”
Davis was murdered at her home on Dec. 20, 2009. The investigation into who took her life continues.
In looking at the purpose of the program, “We look at this as a ministry. We try to depict the life of Christ with as much realism as we can,” said Pelfrey, who added that people have come “from all over” to see it. “It’s not what people expect they’re going to see. You just really have to see it.”
A dress rehearsal of “The Greatest Story” on Wednesday evening gave the performers one last brush-up and revealed a sneak peek at what can be expected at Friday’s performance. The sanctuary is transformed to a biblical-era village which comes to life as actors take to the stage and bring the audience into the action as they move about to the sides and rear of the audience amidst props which add to the realistic effect.
Very little of the story is told through spoken dialogue. Narration, which is accompanied by music and sound effects, guides the story from beginning to end, allowing the actors to add their dramatic enhancements. Live animals make the show feel even more true to life.
Familiar scenes include the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus healing the blind, Lazarus’ resurrection, the Last Supper with the disciples, Jesus arrested at the Garden of Gethsemane, and his crucifixion and resurrection.
Costumes, lighting and special effects all help make this a memorable, spiritual experience for all who attend. Some unexpected twists which add to the realistic effect include blood appearing on Jesus’ back while being whipped by Roman soldiers and rain falling on the set as Jesus was crucified on the cross.
“When people come into this kind of environment, and you bring in the costuming and sound effects, it has an enormous impact,” said Pelfrey. “Each time I work with people, they come away feeling that it had an impact on their lives. If you do it right and put your heart into something and prayerfully enter into it, it can’t help but have an effect on you.”
Community Christian Fellowship is located at 23436 Newcastle Road (Ohio 229), six miles east of Mount Vernon at the intersection of Burtnett Road. The first performance is at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Additional performances will be Friday and Saturday, April 13-14. Admission is free.